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Is Industry to Blame for Blood Cancer?

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Is Industry to Blame for Blood Cancer?

Akranes.

Akranes, West Iceland. Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

A University of Iceland hematology professor states there are indications that myeloma is more common in Akranes, West Iceland, than elsewhere in the country, RÚV reports. He plans to research, in cooperation with the International Myeloma Foundation, whether the higher rate of cancer in the town could partly be explained by pollution from heavy industry.

Myeloma is a cancer of plasma cells, arising in bone marrow, often occurring at multiple sites. In November, an extensive study began at the University of Iceland, headed by Professor Sigurður Yngvi Kristinsson, where the approval from all Icelanders above the age of 40 was sought to screen for the disease.

Sigurður stated that first results suggest 5.2 percent of Icelanders have myeloma at a prophase without being aware of it, which is somewhat higher than in neighboring countries. The purpose of the research is to get a better understanding of the disease and its prophase.

“It’s our feeling, and we have noticed at the Landspítali Department of Hematology, that myeloma is more common among the residents of Akranes than others,” Sigurður noted. “What we can do with this research is to define why that’s the case.” He asked, “Is it perhaps related to heavy industry, such as an aluminum smelter, or a cement plant, or is there some entirely different going on that could possibly explain this?”

The research, about to be launched, could, according to Sigurður, shed light on the interplay between hereditary and environmental factors.

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